Referenda in Malta:

The Questions and the Voters' Responses

Only five referenda have ever been held in Malta; one of them was a purely local one in Gozo. It is remarkable that no referendum (except the 1870 referendum) received the approval of a majority of all the registered voters, because often substantial numbers of voters did not cast a vote.

Sources: Several works in English give extended discussion to the events leading to several of the referenda, the arguments of proponents and opponents, the interpretation of the voting results, and ensuing political developments. Particularly useful are Henry Frendo, The Origins of Maltese Statehood (1999); Joseph Pirotta, Fortress Colony: The Final Act (Vol. II, 1991); Edith Dobie, Malta's Road to Independence (1967); and Edgar Mizzi, Malta in the Making (1995).

The texts and vote totals for the referenda are taken from the sources mentioned above, plus government documents. It should be noted that the voting results involve a problem in respect to the number of voters. Some sources report the figure of all registered voters which would include, for instance, voters who were deceased between the time to the electoral register was compiled and the polling day. Others give only the number of voters who were issued their voting documents. The tabulations below seek to accommodate these differences in reporting.



The referenda are presented in reverse chronological order.


(5) The European Union Referendum of 2003
(8 March 2003)

The Question:

"Do you agree that Malta becomes a member of the European Union in the enlargement that will take place on 1 May 2004?"


The Result:

+---------------------------+-----------+-------+--------+
|                           | % of      | % of  |  % of  |
|                           |Registered | Votes |  Valid |
|                           | Voters    | Cast  |  Votes |
+---------------------------+-----------+-------+--------+
| Registered Voters 297,881 |  100.00   |       |        |
| Not Voting         27,231 |    9.14   |       |        |
| Votes Cast        270,650 |   90.86   |100.00 |        |
| Invalid Votes       3,911 |    1.31   |  1.45 |        |
| Valid Votes       266,722 |   89.54   | 98.55 |  100.00|
+---------------------------+-----------+-------+--------+
| In Favor          143,094 |   48.04   | 52.87 |   53.65|
| Against           123,628 |   41.50   | 45.68 |   46.35|
+---------------------------+-----------+-------+--------+



(4) The Gozo Civic Council (Abolition) Referendum of 1973

(November 11; note that only voters in Gozo could cast votes)

The Question:

"Do you want Gozo to remain different from Malta, that is, not only having its own representatives in Parliament, chosen from Gozo, but also representatives in the Gozo Civic Council which, amongst other powers, has that of imposing special taxes on the Gozitans to be spent according to the wishes of the people of Gozo?"

The Result:


+--------------------------+----------+--------+
|                          |  % of    |  % of  |
|                          | Eligible |  Valid |
|                          |  Voters  |  Votes |
+--------------------------+----------+--------+
| In Favor            137  |    0.88  |  76.97 |
| Against              41  |    0.26  |  23.03 |
| Invalid Votes        17  |    0.11  |        |
| Did Not Vote     15,426  |   98.75  |        |
+--------------------------+----------+--------+
| Eligible Voters  15,621  |  100.00  |        |
+--------------------------+----------+--------+



(3) The Independence Referendum of 1964
(May 2, 3 and 4)

The Question:

"Do you approve of the constitution proposed by the Government of Malta, endorsed by the Legislative Assembly, and published in the Malta Gazette?"


The Result:

+---------------------------+------------+-------+--------+
|                           |  % of      | % of  |  % of  |
|                           | Registered | Votes |  Valid |
|                           |  Voters    | Cast  |  Votes |
+---------------------------+------------+-------+--------+
| Registered Voters 162,743 |   100.00   |       |        |
| Not Voting*        33,094 |    20.34   |       |        |
| Votes Cast        129,649 |    79.66   |100.00 |        |
| Invalid Votes       9,016 |     5.54   |  6.95 |        |
| Valid Votes       120,633 |    74.12   | 93.05 |  100.00|
+---------------------------+------------+-------+--------+
| In Favor         65,714   |    40.38   | 50.69 |   54.47|
| Against          54,919   |    33.75   | 42.36 |   45.53|
+---------------------------+------------+-------+--------+
  * of these 5,899 did not obtain voting papers 



(2) The Integration Referendum of 1956
(February 11 and 12)

The Question: [The text below is taken from J. Pirotta's book. It is not clear, after searching books and making inquiries, whether the whole text below was presented to the voters or whether there was an abbreviated question on the ballot paper.]

PROPOSALS SUBMITTED TO THE VOTERS AT THE REFERENDUM HELD ON 11 AND 12 FEBRUARY 1956

The underlying principle of the Malta Labour Government's proposals for closer association with Great Britain on which negotiations will be conducted with Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, is a complete equality of status between the two peoples. The proposals embody the following basic features:

I. - CONSTITUTIONAL

1. Malta would have representation with full voting powers in the Parliament at Westminster, elected in the same way as Members in the United Kingdom.

2. The Parliament at Westminster would have exclusive authority in matters of defence and foreign affairs, and at an appropriate future date, direct taxation.

3. The powers of the Maltese Parliament would be extended and would embrace all matters other than those mentioned in paragraph 2 above. The Maltese Parliament would be responsible for legislation in all internal matters including, in particular, those affecting the position of the Church in these Islands, education, marriage and family life, always acknowledging the principle of religious toleration as embodied in the Declaration of Rights of 1802 and in recent Constitutions. This would mean that the new constitutional relationship would leave intact the power of the people of Malta to protect their own religion and their own Ecclesiastical establishment. Her Majesty's Government would confirm the assurances they have already given in regard to religious matters,

4. The present dyarchical system of Government in Malta would be abolished and there would be a representative of Her Majesty's Government in Malta to carry out the policy of that Government in regard to defence and foreign affairs, and to consult and collaborate with the Maltese Government in matters of joint concern.

II - ECONOMIC

Under the new constitutional relationship between the two peoples, agreements covering a number of years for financial and other assistance would be sought with Her Majesty's Government to support a development plan the objective of which would be equivalence of standards with Great Britain:-

a) by the gradual raising of the standard of living of the people of these Island and in particular of their social services;

(b) by maintaining employment, the increase of opportunities outside Service establishments and the gradual raising of wages;

(c) by raising direct taxation as the national income and the taxable capacity of the people increase.

III - CONSULTATIVE

Machinery for close consultation and collaboration between the two Governments would be established on the following lines:

(a) A Defence Council in Malta, of which the Maltese Prime Minister would be a member. The Council would be used to inform the Maltese Government of developments in defence and foreign affairs and for the discussion of these matters in so far as they affect Malta;

(b) A committee in Malta, composed of representatives of the Maltese Government and Her Majesty's Government, for the consideration of economic and financial matters of common concern;

(c) A Joint Standing Ministerial Committee in London, to consider at the highest level any issue of particular importance or difficulty affecting Malta. This Committee would meet regularly to provide a means of consultation and an exchange of information between the two Governments.


The Result:

+---------------------------+-----------+---------------+
|                           | % of      | % of    % of  |
|                           |Registered | Votes   Valid |
|                           | Voters    | Cast    Votes |
+---------------------------+-----------+---------------+
| Registered Voters 152,783 |  100.00   |               |
| Not Voting*        62,440 |   40.87   |               |
| Votes Cast         90,343 |   59.13   |100.00         |
| Invalid Votes       2,559 |    1.67   |  2.83         |
| Valid Votes        87,784 |   57.46   | 97.17   100.00|
+---------------------------+-----------+---------------+
| In Favor         67,607   |   44.25   | 74.83    77.02|
| Against          20,177   |   13.21   | 22.21    22.98|
+---------------------------+-----------+---------------+
  * of these 3,287 did not obtain voting papers 



(1) The Referendum of 1870

The Question:

"Are ecclesiastics to be eligible to the Council of Government?"


The Result:

+------------------------+---------------------+
|                        |   % of       % of   |
|                        | Eligible     Valid  |
|                        |  Voters      Votes  |
+------------------------+---------------------+
| In Favor         1,409 |   57.18      96.05  |
| Against             58 |    2.35       3.95  |
| Invalid Votes        6 |    0.24             |
| Did Not Vote       991 |   40.22             |
+------------------------+---------------------+
| Eligible Voters  2,464 |                     |
+------------------------+---------------------+